This past Friday, the IRS claimed that it had removed from its website the confidential information of some 100,000 American citizens that it had incidentally exposed via a mistaken disclosure.
As part of a letter sent from within the Treasury Department to Bennie Thompson, the chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security, the agency stated that the data of about 120,000 Americans had been exposed via an “inadvertent disclosure.”
“This notification follows the IRS discovery that some machine-readable (XML) Form 990-T data made available for bulk download section on the Tax Exempt Organization Search (TEOS) should not have been made public,” stated Anna Canfield Roth, the acting Assistant Secretary for Management at the Treasury. “In some instances, the data did include individual names or business contact information.”
Roth stated that the information did not disclose any Social Security Numbers, any information that could impact someone’s credit score, or any information that could reveal individual income information. She also claimed that the agency had stepped up to take “immediate action” to quickly pull down all of the confidential information.
The IRS normally makes use of Form 990-T data to gather information about individual retirement accounts and their investments into various entities such as real estate or master limited partnerships, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.
The tax enforcement agency will also be carrying out a total review of its operations as stated under the direction of the Treasury Department in the wake of the mistake.
“The Treasury Department has instructed the IRS to conduct a prompt review of its practices to ensure necessary protections are in place to prevent unauthorized data disclosures,” expressed the letter from Roth.
The mistake is just another black mark against the agency itself, which has found itself under heavy criticism from Republicans due to concerns that the almost $80 billion in funding handed over to the IRS via the recently signed “Inflation Reduction Act” will increase the auditing happening against middle-class Americans.
Janet Yellen, the Treasury Secretary, claimed that the rates of auditing targeting middle-class Americans will not increase, but many still remain heavily skeptical of the Secretary’s claims and highlight her own language about comparisons to audit levels in the past.
“I direct that any additional resources — including any new personnel or auditors that are hired — shall not be used to increase the share of small business or households below the $400,000 threshold that are audited relative to historical levels,” Stated Yellen this past month. “This means that, contrary to the misinformation from opponents of this legislation, small business or households earning $400,000 per year or less will not see an increase in the chances that they are audited.”
By making use of the newly injected funding from the legislation, the IRS could bring on over 87,000 new employees, some of whom are most likely going to be enforcement agents.